Federal Broadband Programs Doing Short-Term Work, But Long-Term Objectives Needed

Christopher Mitchell of ILSR talks federal programs and the need for longer-term and more targeted solutions.

Federal Broadband Programs Doing Short-Term Work, But Long-Term Objectives Needed
Chris Mitchell

June 22, 2021–Congress and the agencies trusted with created broadband policy need to move beyond just short-term broadband programs and focus on longer-term sustainable goals for connectivity, a Broadband Breakfast event heard.

“What we are seeing is Congress and states having dumped a ton of money into temporary programs and done almost nothing to develop sustainable solutions,” said Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit advocacy group dealing with community broadband.

Earlier this month, this publication hosted Mitchell for a live event, where editor and publisher Drew Clark discussed broadband infrastructure legislation currently before Congress.

Mitchell noted that while the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which provides $50 to $75 subsidies for families, has benefitted communities, it leaves uncertain what the future holds for these communities when the funds run out.

Similarly, Mitchell critiqued the handling of the Emergency Connectivity Fund, the program that will subsidize broadband connectivity and devices for schools and libraries. He said there needs to be more of a conversation about how to connect students in a more cost-effective and sustainable way and not just throw money at the problem.

“The Emergency Connectivity Fund does not really allow communities to build their own networks unless there are no alternatives,” said Mitchell. He also went after the Federal Communications Commission, saying they need to be more targeted and specific when crafting policy.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the June 9, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “Investment Implications of a Federal Broadband Infrastructure Bill”

Pre-COVID, private digital infrastructure investment was already heating up. Then the pandemic highlighted the urgent need for high-quality broadband, including symmetrical fiber infrastructure. Now, as the Biden Administration begins in earnest to negotiate with Congress on an infrastructure bill, broadband has never been more central. Join us as we consider how the private sector will be impacted by federal legislation.

More about Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021 at Broadband Communities Summit


  • Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Community Broadband Network Initiative
  • Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast

Christopher Mitchell currently serves as the director of the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Community Broadband Network Initiative. His work focuses on helping communities ensure that the telecommunications networks upon which they depend are accountable to the community. He was honored as one of the 2012 Top 25 in Public Sector Technology by Government Technology, which honors the top “Doers, Drivers, and Dreamers” in the nation each year.

Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. In addition to representing public and private providers on broadband issues, Drew is actively involved in issues surrounding interconnected Voice-over-Internet-Protocol service, spectrum licenses, robocalling including STIR/SHAKEN, and the provision of video franchises and “over-the-top” copyrighted content.

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